Date:Wednesday October 21 2009
Like much of the first team, Portsmouth's reserves took to the field full of players with a point to prove. Angelos Basinas went public with his first team aspirations this week, Papa Bouba Diop was playing his first competitive match back from injury in the long road to match fitness, and a whole host of players on the fringe of Pompey's starting eleven will be looking to next week's Carling Cup tie with Stoke as a chance of some first team action. With Paul Hart in the stands looking on, all had a platform to impress.
Two players already in Paul Hart's first team plans connected on five minutes with an early chance - Jamie O'Hara's cross finding Piquionne unmarked in the box - but the French striker showed the sort of finishing that had let Pompey down against Spurs three days earlier, and scuffed his header well wide.
Pompey's youth team keeper Liam O'Brien had barely seen the ball when Fulham whipped in a corner on 11 minutes, but when the back four gave Toni Kallio far too much space to get a header in, the 17 year old found himself picking the ball out of the net - Portsmouth 0 Fulham 1.
Having gone public with his reserve-team frustration with The News this week, Basinas really needed to show tonight quite how above this level he is, rather than just talk about it. Unfortunately, the evidence was nowhere to be found on the pitch. While at times he showed great vision in picking out passes, his slow reactions and seemingly poor fitness left him rather off the pace.
20 minutes in and Portsmouth were pushing well for an equaliser - Diop was found well by O'Hara on the edge of the box, but the resulting header was deflected unluckily into the path of their goalkeeper. Fulham broke quickly though, and Eddie Johnson found himself one on one with Liam O'Brien, who saved brilliantly to deny them a second. His good work was undone however when the Portsmouth defence was once again caught out at the resulting corner - this time Michael Uwezu the man in enough space to poke in a simple header. Portsmouth 0 Fulham 2.
It's testament to Jamie O'Hara's professionalism that, amongst what now looked a poor reserve team, the Premier League regular still chased down every ball and ran himself into the ground as he would a match of much more importance. At no point did the young midfielder tire or compromise his performance, which is truly to be admired when playing at a level well below your ability. A lesson, perhaps, he could teach to Piquionne, who again was anonymous for much of the game. It's clear this man simply doesn't take reserve games seriously - dispossessed all too easily and immediately gives up chasing the ball when he is. For a player trying to force his way into the first team, he again did himself no favours.
The players came out after half time looking keen to overturn a two-goal deficit, with O'Hara and Cherno Samba (On for Danny Webber) skinning their full backs and pelting crosses into the Fulham box. It was O'Hara again - truly a shining light in the team - who laid the ball off well on 52 minutes to Piquionne, who was unlucky to shoot over having turned his man to get sight of goal.
As the game petered out though Pompey looked increasingly limp, and any chance of a comeback looked long gone. In fact if not for Mike Williamson (who had an excellent game at the back, giving another good account of himself) making two perfectly timed challenges just before Eddie Johnson had the chance to pull the trigger on Pompey's goal, the scoreline could have got even more embarrassing for the blues against what were the bottom placed Reserve team in the league.
Most disappointingly of all though, when Papa Bouba Diop was subbed off on 75 minutes, it ended what was a hugely anticlimactic return. Pompey fans could perhaps be accused of looking back with rose tinted glasses on Diop, one of the remaining few relics of the FA Cup winning squad, and putting undue hopes on the shoulders of the Senegalese midfielder, but at this stage of his comeback this is not the player many remembered. Diop looked sluggish on the ball, frail in the pass, and weak on his feet, going to ground far too often. Portsmouth fans may well need to realign their expectations of Diop for now - this is not a player that looks like dislodging Mokoena from the first team in the near future.
PLAY UP POMPEY!
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Date:Wednesday October 21 2009
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